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Troops Attending Church on CampoutsPage Title Module
Our Troop is chartered to a Catholic parish church, and we identify as that church's Scout Troop. By tradition, and on direction from the COR and parents association board, our Troop always attends Catholic Mass together while on campouts. We pretty much insist that all the Scouts attend together, treating it like any other part of the program. We make it clear to parents of Webelos crossing over, and new Scouts joining the Troop, that this is our policy. Even so, occasionally a new leader will balk and sit in the parking lot during Mass or take his son back to the campsite while the rest of us go. Most of the leaders and about half of the Scouts are Catholic. The other half of the Scouts are pretty evenly split between other Christian denominations or do not identify with any denomination at all. Is there any BSA policy on Troops attending church services together when they are sponsored by a religious institution?
Frankly, SMWally, on Scouter dot com I think you will find members with a strong contempt for religion by a margin of 2-to-1 or greater. I don't think you will find the best information for the issue you are describing here. Take it up "in-house" and "in-person" with the leadership of your COR and/or Council leadership that might be more willing to have an open, unbiased dialogue with you about the role and policy of religion in Scouting.
I am part of a Catholic sponsored unit. We do attend Mass on campouts if we're not going to be back in time for scouts to attend with their families. We have a few non Catholics as members; we let their parents decide if they will attend with us, if they don't want to they can hang out in the parking lot or back at camp depending on logistics.
This probably warrants a talk with your Pastor, I would be surprised if he actually supports the idea of non Catholics being required to attend Mass. It's likely that this is some interpretation or tradition that hasn't been properly questioned in a long time.
Tradition or no, whether you give new scouts notice or no, this seems like a pretty clear violation of the Scout Law, the Guide to Advancement, and the Chartering Agreement.
I am also pretty sure it is theologically repugnant to our faith.
Just because something has been going on for a long time and lots of folks have gone along with it doesn't mean it’s a good idea. You should seek some guidance from outside your unit, both at the Council and Diocesan level, to be sure you are acting properly in a critical area of the program and your mission.
T2E, the counter-reformation is a grand part of that tradition. I'm sure some of the church board members think it's their turn to bring it about again!
SMW, don't write off those travelling pastors. By virtue of their having moved around a lot, they can bring a truly catholic perspective to the picture. This summer, at an Eagle court of honor, I met one of the priests of a local Catholic CO. He was from Vietnam and had some unique scouting experiences as a child. I hope the troop will give him more opportunities to share in their program.
The point is that for some people, you have to say "I talked to Father ___ and Bishop ___, about this very thing, and we're going a long with his suggestions." On one level, it's stupid. You and your committee have are smart people, and should be able to say that you all thought about it, and whatever policy you came up with made the most sense based on the teachings of the Church. (It's not like they are locked in a closet someplace.) But, some people won't regard your decision until a holy man is involved.
Are they required to attend Mass or are they required to leave the Camp Site to head to the Church for which the Troop is attended? If it's the former, you definitely having a Scouting violation. If it's the latter, I don't see any problem. As long as those whose religion prohibits or discourages them from attending Mass are permitted to wait with the cars outside without any punitive action being taken, I don't see the problem.
I mean, you'd disclosing it to new members, it's not something sneaky and embarrassing, you're a Catholic Unit that requires participation in Catholicism on Campouts to a certain extent. Perhaps your religious disclosure to new families needs to include them signing a statement that nothing in their personal religious beliefs prevents them from participating in Mass during camp outs, which would preclude that Scouting violation, but that's not an issue of substance.
You have in here the only violation that may occur. You could require that everyone be Catholic, which would avoid this. I think you can also handle the communication/disclosure better, and or the opt-out procedure better.
But as said elsewhere, that policy no doubt excludes Scouts that might otherwise fit with your program, but that's a reasonable tradeoff to make, just make sure it's done properly
Isn't a scout (and scouter) respectful? (13th point of the scout law). We'll go to whatever religious services are available to the troop. It is usually Christian, but many flavors of that. It has also been Jewish or Muslim. We don't "make" everyone go. But do encourage attendance, as much as learning about other traditions as showing respect for others. Our troop chaplain's aides do a terrific job using materials from many faiths and spiritual traditions (we're not chartered by a religious group).